Actress ELLEN POMPEO made it clear she did not want ISAIAH WASHINGTON to play her onscreen love interest on hit medical drama GREY'S ANATOMY because she felt the mixed race storyline would be "too close to home".
The white star, who is married to African-American music producer Chris Ivery, reveals show creator Shonda Rhimes wanted to pair her Meredith Gray with Washington's Dr. Preston Burke during the program's early days, but Pompeo objected and suggested she romance Patrick Dempsey's character instead.
She tells the New York Post, "You know they wanted Isaiah Washington to be my boyfriend. Shonda really wanted to put a black man in the mix. I didn't think they were really going to put an interracial couple on the show and I didn't want him. It was too close to home. I said I wanted that Dempsey kid."
Washington ended up leaving the program after its third season after uttering a homophobic slur towards castmate T.R. Knight in an on-set dispute with Dempsey in 2007, and Pompeo admits tensions had already been running high: "I think that once Isaiah did not get the role (of Gray's lover) it backfired."
Pompeo also spoke candidly about Katherine Heigl's abrupt exit from Gray's Anatomy in 2010, stating, "You could understand why she wanted to go - when you're offered $12 million a movie and you're only 26. But Katie's problem is that she should not have renewed her contract. She re-upped, took a big raise and then tried to get off the show. And then her movie career did not take off."
She adds, "Hurt feelings, combined with instant success and huge pay cheques started things spinning out of control. The crazier things got, as I watched all the tumult with Isaiah and then the Katie thing, I started to focus on the work. I just tried to not pay attention to all the noise around me."